TAKE THE SLOW ROAD TO SYDNEY…
The Princes Highway runs east from Melbourne and heads along and up the coastline of Australia, all the way to Sydney, but it takes longer than heading north inland from Melbourne on the Hume Highway. It may be take more time traveling this way, but it is also in many ways more interesting as it passes by lots of small towns on and off the highway as you travel northwards.
The Gippsland area is known for its dairy farms and most of Australia’s milk comes from the Gippsland areas of Victoria. This also means it is very picturesque to drive through.
You can either head directly along the Princes Highway (M1) to Sale and Bairnsdale, or head to the coast on the Bass Highway (A420) to Wonthaggi and Inverloch, then on to Wilsons Promontory National Park via smaller roads (C444) – a peninsula area that just out into Bass Straight.
If you travel directly along the Princes Highway, you will pass through the towns of Warragul, Moe, Morwell and Traralgon in the LaTrobe Valley. This is where much of Victoria’s power is generated using the coal that is mined here, but the area is equally known for its dairy farms that supply much of the milk to Melbourne, but also to the rest of Australia.
North of these towns is the Great Dividing Range and the Mount Baw Baw National Park and Lake Thompson – the main source of Melbourne’s water supply. The mountainous terrain is quite rugged, and if you are interested in early gold mining, it is worth visiting the tiny town of Walhalla where gold was first discovered in 1863. The town boomed for a number of years, with more than 8 kilometres of tunnels dug into the hills to find gold, and although the mines have long closed, it is possible to take a tour 300 metres underground to see and hear the town’s boom and bust story, with great names like ‘Happy-go-lucky’, and ‘Poverty Point’ in ‘Stringers Creek Valley’ creating a unique memorable story. The Australian Alps Walking Tour – a 650 km walk across the mountains to Canberra also starts in Walhalla. Mount Baw Baw Alpine ski resort is smaller than the better known Mount Hotham, but also has good ski runs.
Back on the coast, the whole coastline has numbers of Marine Parks off the coast, with the Gippsland Highway (A440) being closer to the coastline than the Princes Highway, which is more inland.
As you travel along the Gippsland Highway (A440) you will see lots of side roads that lead to villages right on the coast itself – places like Port Franklin, Port Welshpool, Port Albert, Manns Beach, Seaspray and Honeysuckle Estate – these last two villages being in the Ninety Mile Beach Marine National Park.
Bass Strait and the Tasman Sea separate the Victorian coastline from Tasmania, and besides being known for its rough seas, it is also a great place for fishing, and it is also where natural gas and offshore oil wells are located.
The Oil company, ESSO has a Gas Plant located near Longford, and when you head from Longford to Sale – look for the old rotating bridge that crosses the Thomson River. The bridge can rotate 360? to allow ships to pass .
The Ninety Mile Beach is the start of what are called the Gippsland Lake system – where 7 rivers – the Avon, Thomson, Nicholson, Tambo, Macalister, Mitchell and LaTrobe all flow into a system of lakes and lagoons.
One of the most amazing sights is seeing the Mitchell River Silt Jetties – where the river has flowed into Lake King, but built up a narrow silt embankment on each side of it, extending around 8 kilometres into the lake itself. You can even drive along the south embankment part of it from Eagle Point, near Paynesville.
The whole Gippsland Lake system and coastal beaches are a paradise for fishing, boating, water skiing, sailing, surfing and other water activities – with the small towns around the lake all having their own charm and attractions. The lakes and surrounding wetlands are also home to many migratory and water birds, and there are also bottlenose dolphins in the lakes too.
The biggest town in the area is Bairnsdale, which is the commercial centre for the area. Here you will also be able to visit the Krowathunkoolong Keeping Place – where a large collection of Aboriginal artifacts and history are being preserved. It is located at 37-53 Dalmahoy Street in Bairnsdale.
Further on from Bairnsdale, but also on the Lakes is Lakes Entrance. At one time the lakes were only connected to the Tasman Sea by the water washing over a sand embankment and tidal flats, with the lake water only creating a bigger channel when there were floods. In 1889 a manmade wall was constructed at Lakes Entrance to stop the channel silting up and enable boats to enter or leave the lake system via the channel that was created. Lakes Entrance is a favourite holiday place for Victorians, being just 3 to 4 hours from Melbourne. There are lots or hotels, camping grounds, charter boats for fishing, dolphin spotting and other water based activities, and of course lots of nice restaurants and cafes to take in the atmosphere. From Lakes Entrance, the Princes Highway leads further on through small towns all the way to the NSW Border and the NSW South Coast towns of Eden, Merimbula, Tathra and Bega. These towns are on the Pacific Ocean that often has warmer ocean water than the Southern Ocean in Victoria, making these towns also popular with families and travellers from Melbourne, but also from Canberra and Sydney too. The Davidson historic whaling station on Nullica Bay near Boydtown is also located just off the Princes Highway near the state border. The Princes Highway heads to Bega, home of the popular cheese, but it is also possible to take some smaller roads that are closer to the Coast and Bays to Merimbula and then up what is called the Sapphire Coast to Tathra and onwards to Bermagui, before heading further north on the Princes Highway. This whole area is a beautiful part of Australia.
We hope you have a great time seeing Melbourne and also the towns and cities in Victoria.